If you ever visit the Willis Tower, not only will you witness a sea of business people coming and going, you will also notice dozens and dozens of tourists walking in and out. Why? Because of Skydeck and The Ledge, which are among Chicago’s most notable attractions.
The historic Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) is one of the most iconic buildings in the Western Hemisphere. It’s also the tallest and ranks as the 8th tallest building in the world. It is a premier corporate office building that is home to more than 100 companies and is 110 stories high/1,450 feet tall.
Skydeck occupies the 103rd floor of the tower, which is also home to The Ledge, a glass viewing platform. This attracts more than 1.7 million visitors every year and, as such, you can expect it to be busy.
Despite going early in the morning, we were greeted by the front desk and security guards as they announced there was already a 3-hour wait. The reason for such an early backlog was 100 percent visibility that day, according to security. That translated to both good and bad news – good because it meant a great experience and amazing photos, but bad because we had other tourist attractions to visit and didn’t anticipate such a wait.
We were advised to return later in the day, approximately around dinner hour as the crowds were sure to disperse by then. The timing proved to be perfect with only a 1-hour wait time. Not to mention that it provided views of daylight hours, sunset, and the night sky.
PRO TIP: if you plan on attending Skydeck, consider going late in the day, approximately an hour before sunset. Not only will you encounter shorter lines, but you will also get the most out of the experience… and out of your photos.
The lineup seems to go quickly thanks to a multitude of murals and interactive videos that show and explain some historical facts about Chicago and the Willis Tower.
Emerging from the elevator, expect to be blown away by the breathtaking views. Because it was a clear day, we were able to see over 50+ miles and four states.
Skydeck gives a wonderful 360 view on the 103rd floor and also offers a step out further onto The Ledge.
The Ledge was inspired by curious visitors and the memorable scene in the classic 80s movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the characters stand right against the window while pressing their foreheads against the glass as they attempt to look directly below.
With The Ledge, visitors have a unique and unobstructed view of the city given that the enclosure is an all-glass box located 1,353 feet above Wacker Drive and the Chicago River, which extends out 4.3 feet from the building. While in the box, guests can view the city up, down, below, and all around. The fully enclosed glass boxes (there are four of them in a line) effectively retract into the building, allowing easy access for cleaning and maintenance.
Standing on The Ledge undoubtedly is an exhilarating experience and, as you can likely imagine, is the busiest section of Skydeck. As such, you can expect to wait in line. There were approximately a dozen or so people in line ahead of my team and me so it took about half an hour or so for our turn.
Also on the 103rd floor is a gift shop that offers an array of Chicago and Willis Tower merchandise available for purchase. If you are ever in Chicago, even for just a day or two, put Willis Tower on your ‘To-Do’ list. Skydeck and The Ledge are amazing experiences and the views are just incredible.
For more information including hours of operation, ticket prices etc, please visit the Skydeck website at http://theskydeck.com/